The eighth-generation Toyota Hilux has been in gestation for more than 10 years and in 2016 it has arrived in SA. Sean Parker drove the highly-anticipated Hilux in Gauteng.
Johannesburg - I overheard two veteran motoring journos at dinner reminiscing about the launch of the fifth-generation Toyota Hilux in South Africa back in 1988, coincidentally the year I was born.
And here I am 27 years later driving the all-new eighth-generation Toyota flagship at the revamped Kyalami race track in Gauteng.
It’s testament to how entrenched the Hilux is in Mzansi - it’s like boerewors on a braai. The Hilux bulldozed its way into the local bakkie market 47 years ago and has been the best-selling pick-up since 1973 (Toyota sold more than a million units).
Fighting for the crown
Recently however, the Hilux, manufactured at the Prospecton plant in Durban, has seen its crown put under pressure by Ford’s Ranger.
From 2009 to 2011 the Ranger had a measly 9% of the 1-ton bakkie market share. Much like the EFF, though with more focus, its hard work and determination saw the Ranger rise in popularity by 12%. In fact, from 2012 to 2015, the Ranger was the second best-selling 1-tonner with 21% market share.
It's in this environment that the 2016 Hilux arrives locally and with at least three new bakkies confirmed for SA, it has its work cut out for it.
What's there to know about Toyota's new bakkie? It turns out, quite a lot.
Watch: 360o view of new Hilux
New (intelligent) manual transmission
Toyota debuts a world first for its Hilux - it’s the first bakkie to be equipped with "intelligent manual transmission" (i-MT) which supports smooth-shifting with rev-matching technology.
I tried it out and I must admit it’s the best self-shifter in its segment. Start up the Hilux and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the lack of agricultural-esque vibration synonymous with the outgoing bakkie.
It's transmission offers smooth, easy shifts that make driving a breeze. The new six-speed box has optimised gear ratios to feature a 10% lower first gear for better low-speed torque delivery, providing greater fuel efficiency and relaxed high-speed cruising in sixth gear.
Image gallery: 2016 Toyota Hilux
Back to the tech, the i-MT (only available with the 2.8 diesel) is able to match revs for both up and down shifts. It aims to provide a smooth drive and pull-aways.
With automakers focusing on lowering emissions and fuel consumption, even bakkies have ‘Eco’ and ‘Power’ modes. The Hilux debuts a drive mode switch (xtra- and double-cab variants) which can be selected to suit driving conditions. The default mode is standard.
According to Toyota ‘eco’ mode reduces power consumption in relation to acceleration, heating and cooling to improve fuel economy, whilst ‘power’ mode offers the driver sharper acceleration responses for a more engaging drive.
I used both modes and found that the power mode provides more urgency to the revs. I’d need more time with the vehicle to see the full benefit of the ‘eco’ mode but overall they're two worthy additions to the new Hilux.
What’s it like to drive?
We tend to forget that about 15% of Hilux units sold in SA are private owners (who mostly purchase double-cab versions). The new model employs a new ladder frame chassis, the aim was to reduce road noise, improved rigidity and make the vehicle more comfortable. This is especially usefull when you consider South Africans sometimes drive more than 100km on gravel roads in their bakkies.
Our test route featured road and gravel sections (we even crossed a shallow river), and this is where its new suspension truly shines. It's capable of handling whatever you throw at it.
The Hilux uses a double-wishbone front suspension design and leaf-spring type suspension with twin (larger-diameter) shock-absorbers at the rear.
Driving with an unladen load bay can alter driving characteristics because of a bias of weight on the front axle (it’s called fishtailing). How does Toyota plan to mitigate this considering how many local businessman will use the Hilux as a workhorse?
The new bakkie is equipped with a pitch and bounce control, which aims to automatically adjust engine torque in response to the road surface. The system is able to reduce the pitching motion of the body, improving ride comfort and handling.
Its quite ingenious in that it uses wheel-speed sensor information to establish when the nose of the vehicle is either lifted or lowered by road undulations.
The new suspension updates mentioned earlier, rear-axle wheel articulation is greatly improved, while the underbody gains more protection.
New limited slip differentials (front and rear) have been added. On the 4x4 course at Kyalami race track, we tested out the new electronic driver support systems: downhill assist control, active traction control and hill-start assist control.
Watch the downhill assist control in action:
The Hilux passed the stringent Australian NCAP safety tests, earning 5 stars. It achieved this with features such as ABS, EBD and brake-assist. Models are equipped with several airbags - driver, passenger, side-curtain and even a driver-knee airbag. Toyota says its the only major player in the bakkie segment to offer ABS and a drive airbag across the range.
The interior is arguably where the venerable Hilux has taken its biggest leap forward: headroom is up by 10mm, double cab models feature a 60:40 split ‘tip-up’ rear seat cushion with a nifty storage compartment in the floor.
Rear passengers have a smidgen more legroom and on high-grade derivatives, Toyota has fitted a cooled and heatable second glove box that should come in handy for those long trips.
A 12-volt power outlet is standard across the range, with a second outlet available on high-end versions.
There are storage pockets in the doors, two cup holders and convenience hooks, including a ‘ceiling hook’ located above the rear seats on double cabs.
The high-end models now feature a new 17.8cm touchscreen; it attempts to mirror a tablet format, but is more Sanyo than Apple. To Toyota, how on earth could you not have a rotary volume knob? It’s absurd! Thankfully, the volume can be adjusted via the multi-function steering wheel. There’s a USB and AUX jack as standard. Navigation is standard on the 4.0 litre variants.
New diesel engines
The engine line-up is similar to that of its predecessor though the big news is the addition of ‘global diesel’ series units (more on that later). The newly-developed 2.4 and 2.8 litre engines are both four-cylinder units.
The trio of petrol engines are carried over: the 2.0 litre (102kW/183Nm) does duty in the single-cab only and the 2.7 litre (122kW/245Nm), both benefit from incremental power upgrades. The big daddy 4.0 litre V6 (175kW and 376Nm) remains as is.
Returning to the diesel, the 2.4 litre oil-burner is available in two specs: 110kW and 343Nm while the more powerful version takes torque peak to 400Nm.
I drove the only able to drive the top-of-the-range 2.8 litre mated to the new six-speed auto. The engine felt titan-strong, and its outputs of 130kW and 450Nm, it felt at ease on the freeway when overtaking was called upon and its torque spread was quickly utilised on gravel roads when more throttle was needed.
The new engine offers a more refined experience to the old 3.0 litre diesel. Toyota claims better fuel consumption too.
It has a 4wd switch! Hilux owners will know that when the going got tough off-road (i.e 4x4 courses or sand dunes) low-range or 4x4 high was activated with a small lever located to the right of the normal gear lever. Well, they’ve done away with it; in fact it’s about time.
The rotary dial is used to select 2wd, 4wd and 4wd with low-range up to speeds of 50km/h. The bakkie market may have switched from workhorse to "lifestyle vehicle" there are many Hilux units bound for farms, dunes and a lots of 4x4 excursions in SA.
My only gripe is that the rotary switch however is awkwardly positioned on the lower section of the dashboard. The knob is large enough to adjust using gloves, convenient in winter and its simplicity is definitely a boon.
But can it still tow bru?
According to Toyota, SA customers specifically asked for a bakkie with unrivalled towing capability. To that end, the new Hilux offers increased towing capacity across the range (bar the entry-level petrol version), with the 2.8 GD-6 4x4 featuring a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes.
The load bay is now 55mm wider for a total of 1.5m, which Toyota says is "best in class".
Best in the business?
Overall, the Hilux team, headed by chief engineer Hiroki Nakajima, has done an outstanding job.
The manner in which the new model blends durability and driving comfort should be applauded. The new 2.8 diesel has sufficient power and the new manual ‘box is a treat. The 2.8 GD6 4x4 manual is my pick of the range.
The eight-generation shows that Toyota are capable of keeping ahead of the ever-chasing bakkie pack. With the local segment growing and new buyers eager to own double cabs, the new Hilux offers refinement, power and off-road capability.
Toyota has also been very aggressive with the pricing of the new Hilux, starting from R228 900 to R593 900. They've even managed to reduce the price of some derivatives they replace...Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan take note!
Will I be around when the 15th generation is launched in years to come? Hopefully if I maintain a healthy lifestyle but one thing you can be sure of, the Hilux will definitely be there, sitting on the throne as SA's bakkie king. Maybe Toyota won't wait more than a decade between generations...
All models are accompanied by a five year or 90 000km service plan (whichever occurs first) with service intervals set at 10 000kms.
Single cab (Petrol)
Hilux SC 2.0 VVTi - R228 900
Hilux SC 2.0 VVTi With A/C - R236 400
Hilux SC 2.7 VVTi Raised Body SRX - R309 900
Single cab (Diesel)
Hilux SC 2.4 GD - R259 900
Hilux SC 2.4 GD With A/C - R267 400
Hilux SC 2.4 GD-6 Raised Body SRX - R319 900
Hilux SC 2.4 GD-6 4×4 SRX - R379 900
Hilux SC 2.8 GD-6 Raised Body Raider - R377 900
Hilux SC 2.4 GD-6 4×4 SR - R382 900
Hilux SC 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Raider - R435 900
Hilux DC 2.7 VVTi Raised Body SRX - R377 900
Hilux DC 4.0 V6 Raised Body Raider Auto - R503 900
Hilux DC 4.0 V6 4×4 Raider Auto - R593 900
Hilux DC 2.4 GD-6 4×4 SRX - R414 900
Hilux DC 2.4 GD-6 4×4 SR R441 900
Hilux DC 2.8 GD-6 Raised Body Raider - R468 900
Hilux DC 2.8 GD-6 Raised Body Raider Auto - R485 900
Hilux DC 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Raider - R529 900
Hilux DC 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Raider Auto - R547 900
Hilux XC 2.4 GD-6 Raised Body SRX - R333 900
Hilux XC 2.8 GD-6 Raised Body Raider - R410 900
Hilux XC 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Raider - R470 900
Hilux double cab spec sheet
Hilux extra cab spec sheet
Hilux single cab spec sheet